By Danny O’Neil
RENTON – Antoine Winfield is one of the newest Seahawks. He is also the oldest, turning 36 in June.
And of all the acquisitions Seattle made this offseason, Winfield’s decision to sign in Seattle is significant not just for what he brings to the roster, but what his arrival said about this team’s place in the league’s pecking order.
“I just wanted a chance to compete for a championship,” Winfield said. “And I thought the best place to go was here.”
Antoine Winfield (21), pictured during Tuesday’s organized team activity, chose the Seahawks after spending the last nine seasons in Minnesota. (AP)
Think about that the next time somebody’s talking about just how hard it is to convince a free agent to sign in Seattle. Winning kind of sells itself as Winfield pointed out when he was asked how much former Vikings teammates like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin did to convince him to come to Seattle.
“They didn’t need to,” Winfield said. “Once I had the opportunity to look around, Seattle was my No. 1 choice and we made it happen.”
Winfield signed a one-year contract with Seattle, which has a base value of $2 million and another $1 million in potential incentives. His addition constitutes an upgrade from Marcus Trufant, who played the nickel cornerback spot a year ago.
But there’s a bigger-picture element to this, too. One of the ways an NFL team can find value in the salary-cap era is to become a destination for viable veterans who are looking for contention as much as a pay day. It’s a formula the Patriots used for years, filling roles with accomplished and capable veterans who want another crack at the playoffs as they enter the twilight of their respective careers.
The NFL may be a young man’s game, but veterans have a very definite value. Just look at Winfield, a former first-round pick with the Bills who played the past nine seasons in Minnesota. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl three times. At 5 feet 9, he is still a physical defender against the run while having the quickness that lends itself well to the slot.
Winfield was scheduled to earn $7.25 million from Minnesota, which is why the Vikings released him.
“It wasn’t like I wanted to leave,” Winfield said. “I was kind of scooted out the door. But it’s a business. I understand that.”
It’s what happened next that is significant for Seattle both in terms of its secondary this season and in the future of its roster. Winfield took a look around and had a number of options from Washington to Minnesota – which was willing to re-sign him – and instead he settled on the Seahawks.
“I knew Seattle had a great team,” Winfield said.
That is a significant consideration for a veteran like Winfield, who has plunged headfirst into Seattle’s offseason training program after staying away from Minnesota’s voluntary workouts the past five years.
“I would do my own stuff,” Winfield said. “But coming to a new team, I thought it would be wise for me to get in here and get familiar with everyone. Just being around the coaches, just seeing how the Seahawks do things. I love it. I’m working hard and I’m getting better.”
Is he as fast as he ever was?
“Oh no,” Winfield said. “Are you as fast as you used to be?”
Fair point, but with 100 days before the NFL season starts, there’s plenty of reason to think that Winfield has more than a little bit left in the tank.